All You Need to Know About Making PowerPoint Presentations Part 1

Dear friends, we are gathered here to shift our focus back to our books and visualise the victorious moment of graduation…ok, that sounds a bit dramatic for learning purposes but I do hope you enjoyed my previous life lessons article. If you haven’t read it then you can click here and read on. I’m fully aware that I have touched on presentations when I mentioned the importance of coursework and giving tips on how to get through assignments. Since you now have your group mates (or you’re riding solo), let’s dive in and see what basics you need to know about making an academic presentation from scratch.

Follow any given guidelines

From my own experience, there wasn’t a very strict format and we would actually gauge ourselves in terms of the number of slides, especially if we had to judge between answering a question and presenting on a full topic (which, obviously, would be much longer). However, the basic norm is to have the course name and course code as the front “cover” of your presentation, followed by the list of full names and student numbers of all group members. The presentation question can either have its own slide after the names or can be fit in on the first page, depending on preference and instruction. Just ensure it's not too crowded.

Should you be requested to paginate your slides, use illustrative diagrams, slide transitions and sound effects then do so as one major component is to assess how good you are at following instructions; they’re there for a reason. Most presentations will have their mark allocation based on (in no particular order) your dress code, where applicable, presentation skills which include confidence, fluency, and engaging the audience, presentation content, the presentability of the PowerPoint itself in terms of aesthetics and consistency, and how well you have touched on all areas of the topic or answered the question.

Do your research

There is nothing as humiliating as being turned back to your seats and told to revisit the drawing board because your presentation lacks the relevant facts and depth. Remember, it’s not merely about standing in front of your audience, saying a few things as you flip through slides and then going to sit down. Your audience must learn something from you because you stand there having gathered valuable information from your research, hence, they depend on you and it will show if no research was done. The goal is to source information from valuable and authentic sources such as library books, online journals, articles, newspapers as long as it can be referenced. This is crucial as you are also learning in the process so it’s best to do it once and do it right.

Plan carefully

Planning will really play a major role from beginning to end as it will determine how you gather information as a group, the resources you will use as sources as well as for presenting your work, the slide design you will opt for, how you will arrange your information, the font types and styles to be used, slide design for your images and who amongst yourselves will present which parts. This basically means that the end product and execution will show the level of planning that was put in; it’s that simple. It’s also at this stage where you assess how you will answer your question or present your topic. It all has to flow cohesively.

Consider your audience

This basically means that you should have a basic idea of the level of understanding that your audience (in this case, your classmates)has and try to match up to it. Yes, we do understand that sometimes there’s the tendency to feel that using complex words exists to show the level of education one has reached; true…to a certain degree. My advice is keep the English simple and that way, your presentation becomes easier to understand. Of course, there are certain terms that cannot be altered, but make sure you’re not out there regurgitating the thesaurus to your audience.

Select an appropriate template

It’s easy to get carried away with the aesthetics of the templates that are available to choose from and they come in all sorts of colours and layouts. Rather gravitate to a more modest-looking template than to have one that may appear loud and distracting. Most of them also come with default embedded fonts (which can be changed), but also take note to see how this font will blend in with the template even after adjusting the textbox. Remember, these templates also have margins just like regular documents so the last thing you want is for your text to be “falling off” the slide since you have stretched the textbox too far. Also, the orientation of your slides will affect how your text and images will appear as some templates have a more square than rectangular landscape orientation (I’m sure you get what I mean), so take note of that please.

Background & fonts

The most logical thing to do is to use a lighter font on a dark background and vice versa. In as much as I love using dark mode for most of my device applications, It is better to use a darker font (preferably the standard black) on a light background. The written content must be clearly visible from the back of the lecture room or at leastfrom the seat of the back row students. Do not use more than three fonts or your presentation will look untidy. All heading and body text fonts must be consistent throughout the presentation. Balance the size of your font and ensure that it is clearly visible without being overwhelmingly and awkwardly large.

Power points, not power paragraphs!

We all know and understand the excitement of wanting to add in as much detail as possible, but remember that by presenting paragraphs, they cease to be “power points”. It’s also not aesthetically pleasing to have word-filled slides as the focus of the audience will divert from the speaker to reading the slides which defeats the whole purpose of the information being projected. Having 5–6 words per sentence and 5–6 sentences per slide is enough. I mean why not just prescribe the text from which the information was sourced?

Images, tables, and charts

I did mention earlier why it is important to select your template wisely. This is because should you desire to use images, they must fit into the slides well without being distorted by stretching them. Should it be absolutely necessary to use an image, then ensure you resize it accordingly so as to preserve its quality. The same applies to tables and charts. If they do not look right in the slide, rather print it out separately and have it reviewed in hard copy where it will be clear and visible to your audience.

Animations, sound effects & slide transitions

Did you know that the more effects you have on your presentation, the slower your presentation slides will load and display? Look, I know you’d like to be the cut above the rest and show just how much effect you have put into your presentation but the truth is most of these additions are not important. You can maybe add some slide transitions for the beginning and end of the presentation but really, keep it to a minimum because it’s unnecessary. In as much as it’s an academic presentation, try to keep it as professional-looking as possible.

I am aware that there is a whole lot or information on this topic, but I am writing from experience. May this guide be your reference and help you in creating up-to-standard presentations. Look out for part 2 with actual presentation skills.

Happy learning!

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Schooling & Adulting

Schooling & Adulting

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Hi, I’m Sli. Continuous learning is a passion of mine and I’d like to share my journey with you. I also love food, travelling and reading great books.